Apple's in-car infotainment system has been a long time coming. After it was announced at the company's annual WWDC conference in June last year, "iOS in the Car" flew under the radar, only to undergo a rebrand and launch publicly yesterday under a new moniker: CarPlay. Sharing part of its name with the company's AirPlay media-streaming protocol, CarPlay combines all of the iPhone's most important features and mirrors them inside the car, allowing car owners to call, text, navigate and listen to music (and more) using touch- or Siri-based voice inputs. The new in-car interface is compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo models unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, and it's there that we got the chance to test Apple's automotive assistant inside a suitably equipped Ferrari FF coupe.
You may have already followed the announcement of Sony's Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z2 Tablet last week, but did you know that they are also the first mobile devices to feature MHL 3.0? For those who haven't caught up, this standard allows 4K video output -- over a bandwidth of 6 Gbps -- from a micro-USB port, while giving back up to 10W of power to keep your phone or tablet juiced up. Better yet, you also get a dedicated 75 Mbps channel for data transfer, as opposed to just 1 Mbps in earlier versions, which is only enough for HID input (like keyboard, touchscreen, mouse and even gesture control). It's still snail pace compared to the likes of USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, but at least you can now transfer files to and from your mobile device over the same cable. Besides, it's possible to achieve a higher transfer rate of up to 600 Mbps using special connectors, such as USB 3.0's 10-pin configuration.
At MWC last week, Silicon Image demoed MHL 3.0 -- powered by its SiI8620 transmitter chip -- working between an Xperia Z2 and a Sony 4K TV, with the bonus capability of navigating through the phone using the TV's remote. The company also showed off file transfer between a USB drive and a Snapdragon 800 development board over MHL 3.0, though products (likely monitors, set-top boxes and docks) that support this feature won't be out until later this year. For now, you can check out our demo video after the break.
Samsung's device lineup may still be heavily dominated by Android, but change is in the air. Tizen, the open-source OS it jointly develops with Intel, powers the company's three new Gear wearables, and smartphones are coming later this year. We got the chance to play with Samsung's latest Tizen phone prototype, which runs a customized build (version 2.2.1) of the platform, allowing us to see what's changed since the last time we saw a Samsung developer handset. While there's still plenty of similarities between the prototype and what we've seen in the past, Samsung's worked to incorporate parts of its Android design language, particularly in the apps drawer, notification tray and homescreen widgets. Not only do they look better, each of the elements are more feature rich than before, offering users greater control over the device and making it feel like a complete platform. The company insists the platform isn't designed to replace Android, affirming that it forms part of its "multi-OS strategy," but given its recent wearable overhaul, we'll never say never. Check out the hands-on video below to see what a Samsung mobile future without Google could possibly look like.
The Ubuntu Touch smartphone OS has come a long way, but it still has further to plod before it's ready for market - all Canonical will tell us that it hopes to see an Ubuntu phone before the end of this year. Nevertheless, now that some phone manufacturers are on board with the project, we've been able to play with a couple of prototypes: One was just a non-functioning handset from a Spanish company called BQ, showing off plain but solid build quality reflective of a mid-tier device. The other was more interesting -- a re-purposed Android handset from a second Ubuntu partner, Meizu, which makes light work of the operating system and interface. The UI itself hasn't changed a great deal since we last tried it, and neither has the underlying mission, which is to create an OS that extends seamlessly across phones, tablets and PCs, with virtually the same apps running on each type of screen. Check out the hands-on video below to get a better of what Canonical is aiming at, or -- if you don't mind getting your hands dirty -- try the new dual-boot developer preview for yourself on an Android handset.
It's only been a week since Gionee debuted its super thin Elife S5.5 Android phone in China, but luckily for us, the company also brought it along to MWC. After playing with the 5.55mm-thick device for some time, we were left very impressed with its build quality. The aluminum frame was nicely machined and felt solid, whereas the Corning glass back panel added an extra premium feel, despite leaving fingerprints behind. We still struggled to believe that there's a 1.7GHz octa-core SoC inside such a slim device, let alone a 2,300mAh battery and two nice cameras -- 5 megapixels on the front and 13 megapixels on the back. It should be noted that the rear imager and its LED flash do stick out a little, but it's not that noticeable in the corner. The S5.5 will come in several colors, with our favorite being the white and gold combo.
We managed to have a quick chat with Gionee's president William Lu, who was amused by how folks from Sony, Samsung and Nokia kept going back to his booth to inspect his company's masterpiece. Well, if they don't mind splashing out about $375, they can grab one for themselves in China come March 15th; but the phone will eventually arrive in other countries (though the US is definitely not on the list). Meanwhile, feel free to check out our hands-on video after the break.
One camera. Two separate lenses. That's the conundrum raised by leaked images of HTC's forthcoming M8 smartphone, which is rumored to bring some interesting new imaging features that go far beyond mere 3D. But what could those features be? For an answer, we turned to a startup called Corephotonics, which is currently pitching precisely such a dual-lens concept to smartphone makers. The company's representatives told us that they're not behind the specific module in the M8 -- that camera must be coming from some other rival or from within HTC itself -- but they were keen to show us what their module could do for image quality, if it was ever put to work inside a smartphone or compact camera.
Panasonic may have bowed out of the consumer smartphone game, but gadgets for businesses are a completely different story. That's why the Japanese company came to Mobile World Congress with a new pair of rugged Toughpad smartphones in tow. You can't mistake them, despite their identical looks, because one runs Android 4.2.2 and the other has Windows Embedded 8 Handheld -- and we just got a chance to see what they're made of.
Information is a currency. For every company selling your details for profit, there's another selling you the promise of more security. Recognizing that consumers are running a gauntlet every time they pick up their smartphone, a group of companies has partnered up to offer something different. Announced earlier this year, the Blackphone is an Android smartphone that prioritizes privacy and security, shielding your data from carriers, advertisers and malicious third parties who could trade your details for the purposes of profit or oppression -- and it's on sale today for $629.
How does it work? The idea is pretty simple: You start out with a nicely designed and well-specced Android-based phone, and then package it with some tried-and-tested apps and services that will work out of the box. The first layer is a customized skin called "PrivatOS" which gives the phone a different look and feel, but also works as a platform (soon to be open-source) that encrypts locally stored information. Next, you add in services like Silent Circle and Disconnect.me to enable anonymous phone calls, texts and browsing too. Finally, Blackphone comes with utilities that give the user better control over what third-party software does on their phone. We tried out a dashboard that makes it extremely easy to set the degree of access each app has to cellular networks, WiFi and locally stored info. The video below shows you just how easy Blackphone makes it to take yourself off the grid.
Samsung's new Gear smartwatches are no longer card-carrying members of its Android Galaxy. That's because Tizen, the company's open-sourced OS, has taken over the reins for the line begot by the barely five-month-old Galaxy Gear. And, in typical Samsung fashion, the company hasn't released just one new Gear, but three with very specific areas of focus: the fashionable Gear 2, the functional Gear Neo and fitness-focused Gear Fit. The newly announced trio was on display here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, giving us a chance to get acquainted with their particular quirks and let you know whether or not to free up some space on your wrist.
Once a year, Samsung takes some of its best material and slaps it together into a premium flagship model called the Galaxy S. While 2014's version -- the S5 -- came a bit earlier in the year than some earlier iterations, we're no less excited to see it become the star of the show at Mobile World Congress. The new device will ship in April (on stage, Samsung specifically mentioned that it launches on April 11th in 150 markets), although exact pricing and availability are still unknown. It features a refreshed design language, yet anyone who has used a GS phone recently will immediately recognize it as a Samsung flagship.
Despite its familiar design, the GS5 has a few new useful hardware features, including a fingerprint scanner, heart rate sensor, and a toned-down TouchWiz UI on top of Android 4.4 KitKat. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was that Samsung didn't overload its prized new smartphone with a heaping dose of new S-branded features. This is a marked departure from the company's previous strategy of cramming in every software feature under the sun, which leads us to wonder if this is related to Samsung's recent agreement to dial back the customization it does on Android devices. So what else is new here? Read on for a deeper dive.
When you have the inventory that Samsung does, you don't need to make a fuss when you launch a mid-range Android phone. But the Korean firm did recently release one -- the Galaxy Core LTE -- and it's certainly worth a moment of your time if you're in that market. Design-wise you know the drill: take one of Samsung's flagships and nip a bit here, maybe a tuck there. Aesthetically it's derivative, sure, but comfortable -- like some well worn-in shoes. On a positive note, the back panel is textured, and feels like something between rubber and a soft touch finish. This at least stops it feeling too much like one of Samsung's many "sausage machine" handsets.
As for specifications, it's fairly typical of the current mid-tier breed. That means a 4.5-inch qHD display, a 1.2 GHz dual-core chip (based on Arm's A9, but no mention of specifics), a 5-megapixel/VGA camera combo, 8GB of storage (plus a microSD slot) and a 2,100 mAh battery. We only got to spend a short while with it, but if we're honest, we were actually impressed by how quick and fluid menu navigation was, or how responsive Google maps rendering was. This, of course, should be no real test of a modern phone, but it still gave us a little "not bad" reflective moment. At the moment we only know it's coming to Europe and Asia, with no mention on price. But if we're betting on anything, it's that it'll have a new cousin to look up to too -- in just a few short hours.
That HTC "Desire 8" you've been seeing lately? It's finally unveiled as the Desire 816, a "flagship mid-range" phone that promises to be competitively priced, while also offering LTE (for EMEA and Asia) and HSPA+ (up to 42 Mbps). This pretty phablet comes with a large 5.5-inch 720p display, a 1.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage (capacity may vary), microSD expansion of up to a staggering 128GB and a fixed 2,600mAh battery. You'll get a decent multimedia experience courtesy of the BoomSound frontal stereo speakers (with dedicated amplifiers), along with the 13-megapixel f/2.2 main camera (with Zoe mode in HTC Sense 5.5 UI) plus the 5-megapixel f/2.8 selfie camera. These are all tucked inside a 7.99mm-thick, 165g body, which is pretty good for the size.
Interestingly, this will be the first HTC phone to take a nano-SIM, which may be able to lure a few iPhone 5c users. Ultimately, it's all about the price, and we should know very soon given the China launch next month (likely March 18th), followed by a global launch in April.
Update: We now have some hands-on photos. Enjoy!
ZTE's back with yet another take on the sans stylus phablet it introduced at Mobile World Congress last year, except this time, the device isn't touting a world's first with its Qualcomm CPU. The Grand Memo II LTE marks the company's second attempt at the smartphone category created by the Galaxy Note and G Pros of the world with a 6-inch 720p display, 13-megapixel rear camera and 7.2mm thickness. To ZTE's credit, it's whipped up quite a sleek and attractive plastic design, marked by a grooved, reflective backplate. Not only is the handset ultra slim, but also its curved edges and thin bezels somehow conspire to make the device appear slighter than its massive size.
A couple of years ago, we would've said that the day Nokia announced an Android device was the day Hades froze over. The hour has come, however, and it's only slightly chilly this morning. The Nokia X is the company's inaugural Android-based devices -- three of them, in fact -- although it's been tweaked a little bit to fit Microsoft's and Nokia's preferences. The devices are known as the X, X+ (pictured above) and XL (pictured after the break), each of which differed by only a small number of factors; and at a cost of 89 euros ($122) for the X, 99 euros for the X+ and 109 euros for the XL, the family fits roughly in-between the Asha and Lumia series in terms of pricing and functionality. The X will be available immediately in growth markets (sorry, enthusiasts in the US, Korea and Japan, it won't be heading to your neck of the woods through official channels), while the X+ and XL will come later in the second quarter and will come in white, black, cyan, green, red and yellow.